Product managers and marketers spend a lot of time obsessing about how to raise awareness and increase market acceptance. But you would be surprised how often one of the most effective tactics, briefing industry analysts, is an afterthought. For B2B organizations, especially in the high-tech market, analysts are the conduit to hundreds of client conversations every year.
Product managers and marketers spend a lot of time obsessing about how to raise awareness and increase market acceptance. But you would be surprised how often one of the most effective tactics, briefing industry analysts, is an afterthought. For B2B organizations, especially in the high-tech market, analysts are the conduit to hundreds of client conversations every year. Yet analyst relations (AR) and PR teams wrestle with their product teams to get them to talk to the analysts. From the resistance, you’d think you were suggesting a scenario like that played out in the horror movie “Snakes on a Plane.”
Let’s take a look at the reluctance of some product managers. Here are highlights of the stories we’ve heard:
- “We don’t have a research subscription so they won’t talk to us.” This is a misunderstanding about the types of interaction with analyst firms. A client inquiry is a one-on-one conversation with an analyst to get advice or feedback. A vendor briefing is aimed at educating the analyst about a product or service. Analysts need briefings to understand what’s going on in the markets they cover — it’s part of their job responsibility. Just don’t expect much in the way of free advice. Recommendation: Keep the presentation short but meaty. If there’s interest, you can expect a lot of questions. You might not get all the way through your prepared material, but that’s a good reason to ask for a second opportunity. No questions? Hmm – better check your content again.
- “They didn’t cover us in their last report, so I’m not going to bother with them.” Also heard: “I didn’t like how they positioned us the last time.” This brings to mind a favorite adage from everyone’s grandmother: Are you cutting off your nose to spite your face? This is a relationship game; just like in dating, electing to ignore the other person is not a good plan. You need them, but do they really need you? Recommendation: Don’t make it a sales pitch. Analysts say that they hear hundreds of thinly disguised sales pitches every year, and as soon as it gets “salesy,” they tune out and check email. Distinguish yourself from the pack; offer something interesting, timely and truly informative to keep their attention.
- “I’m not talking to the analysts – they don’t know anything. Besides, they unhooked a deal we were working on.” This is a self-perpetuating story usually driven by a bad experience in sales. Most often, the unhooked deal happened because the analyst community doesn’t understand your offering and how compelling it is. The solution is not to keep silent but to change the relationship dynamic. Don’t let competitors make hay because your company’s collective attitude comes across as arrogant or indifferent. Recommendation: Analysts really do know their coverage areas. Unless you’re the prime mover in a completely new space, don’t waste time teaching them about it. What’s new and different? This is why they attend briefings – hoping to enjoy an Aha! moment.
- “I can’t tell them about our product; it’s not launched yet and I don’t have permission to talk about it.” In this case, a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) works wonders. Just make sure to reiterate at the briefing when the news embargo will be lifted. Too often, this excuse hides the fact that the product features or delivery dates are still moving targets. And that’s a much bigger problem, but not with the analysts. Recommendation: When the stars align and the product is ready, include information that analysts can’t get from your Web site. Avoid PR talking points — analysts are trained to quickly recognize when someone’s spinning the message.
- The most interesting display of reluctance is unspoken – it’s that “deer in the headlights” look that creeps across some faces because briefings are really outside their comfort zone. Sometimes they don’t know how to construct an effective briefing. (We can help with that.) And sometimes it’s because they fear that smart questions will uncover gaps in their product or knowledge. Recommendation: We suggest following the same advice that job coaches give professionals looking for a new job: Role-play and practice until you can handle any question that might come up. If it’s public-speaking anxiety, get a team member to lead. Just make sure the briefing happens. Also, because so many analysts are now active on social media platforms, don’t be shocked if your visit gets mentioned or a question is raised via Twitter. Have someone follow up with social mentions.
The briefing process may feel uncomfortable and seem like a lot of extra work, but the benefits make it well worth the effort. You’re already raising awareness with your sales team, channel partners and the media. Don’t neglect the one channel whose customers are paying them to learn about products and services just like the ones in your portfolio. You’ll find that mastering the art of the analyst briefing won’t be so scary after all.